The panel consisted of Amy Gudmestad, Director of Minnesota Life College, Steve Unowsky, Superintendent of Richfield Public Schools, Cecelia Cervantes, President of Hennepin Technical College, and MSB’s very own Business Program Chair, Jason Kriegel! The event was moderated by Amy Walstien from the Richfield Chamber of Commerce.
After a delicious lunch sponsored by Noodles & Company, the Richfield area business professionals sat down to listen to the panelists discuss ways in which educational institutions can work to produce citizens who have the skills that meet employer needs.
Jason stressed the skills-gap: employers cannot find the right workers to fill critical positions. “Some students are lacking in technical skills, some are lacking in ‘soft skills’ – some have a difficult time even showing up for work on time,” he said.
“Schools need to listen to employers to be able to teach students the skills they need. Schools may even have to purchase new equipment in order to remain state of the art,” said Cecelia.
Amy, whose school educates and trains students with autism and other special needs, said that her graduates are ready to begin entry-level work. “We teach our students soft-skills. They live on campus, so we are able to teach them things like hygiene and getting ready for work in the morning. When they get to work, they are really happy to be there,” she said.
Jason explained MSB’s “We Care” philosophy: we care about our students, our employees, and the employers who will hire our students one day. He also said that our professional advisory committees are vital to our work.
“[The professionals] live it every day. They help tweak our curriculum to ensure we are educating our students in ways that mean they can graduate and find a job,” Jason said.
Jason also highlighted MSB’s Career Capstone class which sum up all that students have learned over the course of two to four years and nail down soft skills, such as a firm handshake and maintaining eye-contact during a job interview.Steve shared that at Richfield Public Schools they teach soft skills starting in kindergarten! Everything from listening, to organization skills in elementary school, to interviewing and resume writing skills in high school are part of the curriculum. “We are always teaching social skills and being deliberate with every moment that we have. We need to teach these skills so that every student can graduate and move on to college and/or directly to a business,” said Steve.
Jason stressed the importance of internships and practicums for students in programs such as medical assistant, nursing, business and accounting. He stated, “Employers can be hesitant to take on a college student and it can be difficult to find internships.”
And finally, Jason described how many of our students are non-traditional. “MSB offer a flexible schedule and online classes. We pride ourselves on serving the underserved,” he said.
All participants agreed that businesses and schools need to work closely together to meet employers’ needs. Many business cards were exchanged with several offers for internships.
Jason said that the event was enjoyable. “It was informational and I made new friends, new contacts and networked – especially with the Richfield Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
We hope to partner with the Chamber and our local business leaders again in the very near future!